Pepper Fish Soup

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Dummy Dining is a collection of recipes by Carmen Lopez Villamil (JE ’25) for delicious dishes made primarily from scavenged dining hall ingredients. The Yale Herald is not responsible for any ensuing hot-plate disasters.

They told me not to use red fish. It was their only stipulation, really.

The trouble was that tucked between the folds of the paper towel caged in my right hand, the outside of which held open the dining hall door because I wasn’t ready to go in because I was skimming their recipe and reading its reviews and then all of its comments, red fish was all I had.

Red fish might be generous. I had Bow Wow fish. I was going to make soup.


  1. Find fish. I get mine from a specialty underground market. You could use fish from the Long Island Sound or aquatics labs. My Bow Wow fish (salmon, tuna?, strips of cooked shrimp) was plucked from atop the Rainbow Roll (which I did not pay for. We’ll have to practice some light collective discretion: don’t ask, don’t tell). It also turns out that fish is not that important to fish soup. Or at least, not to this one.
  2. Peppery infusion. Remove top and pour red pepper flakes into a bowl. Crack in about half, or maybe a quarter, as much black pepper. I then waddled over to the tea station and drowned the pepper mix in hot water. You should not. It was embarrassing. Cover the peppers in olive oil and microwave until you hear a pop. And then do it again. And maybe twice more, but do it with confidence so that it doesn’t get awkward.
  3. Cook tomatoes. I pulled a scientific method on this one. Place five cherry tomatoes in each of two mugs. Perforate them with a fork. I did this at the cutlery station–bad idea. Consider conducting your surreptitious entrepreneurship in a corner. Cover the first set of tomato babies in hot water, and drizzle olive oil over the others. Run to the microwave. Microwave both until you hear a pop, or see foam bubble over the top, and steam (or smoke?) rising. Stop the microwave. And then do it again. You can walk away to attend to the other bowls you’ve distributed around the servery (I had four, not sure how)-but return in time to do it all again. Hit those babies four times. At least.
  4. Make soup. Mash tomatoes and remove skins-somehow consolidate the water and oil experimental groups. Or go back and choose one method-it does not matter. Spoon some of the pepper water (or oil) into tomato liquid, avoiding all pepper bits. This is soup!
  5. Heat your soup in the microwave until it bubbles and steams and then pull it out and add your fish really fast. It’ll cook. Don’t be alarmed. I was. I screamed. Then add the shrimp. It shouldn’t do anything. Let me know if it does.
  6. Heap some arugula in the center of the bowl, squeeze a bit of lemon from the tea station, and add some of the watery (or oily) pepper bits. And you should salt the soup at some point. I did not.

Extenuating circumstances prevented me from having an impartial reviewer (I was the only one left in the dining hall, I was embarrassed, etc.); but trust, it was tasty. I was surprised that it was edible. And that it was delightfully peppery. I finished the soup (tomatoey), the salmon (buttery), and the shrimp (desperate times). I sat with deep satisfaction. The pepper echoed: a little like the idea of a warm, sweet hearth in the place where the esophagus meets the dangly little thing that swings in the back of the throat, and hard papery pepper in front of the mouth line up the walls when I move my tongue.

I did not eat the tuna. It was tender, but not enough-trapped in texture’s uncanny valley, it tasted bad. You could just microwave tomatoes and eat them, replace oil with water, or water with oil. You could (should?) add salt, though you really don’t have to. You could do anything and I’ll call it a soup. Add fish and that’s a fish soup. But as it turns out, you probably should not use red fish.

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